Mashapaug Pond

In 2011, Anne Valk, artist Holly Ewald, and public humanities students began a collaborative project to document and raise public awareness of the environmental, social, and economic history of Mashapaug Pond in Providence and the neighborhoods surrounding it. Valk and Ewald, founder of the Urban Pond Procession, have co-taught Oral History and Community Memory, in which students collected oral history interviews and historical materials to document uses of the Pond and individual interactions with it. These materials are made publicly accessible through a digital archive created by Brown’s Center for Digital Scholarship.

As part of this ongoing collaboration, the Mashapaug Pond materials have generated exhibits, multimedia and online presentations. In December, 2011, Reservoir of Memories: A Community Collection, displayed objects and stories in a temporary exhibition and a website. Reservoir of Memories was subsequently adapted into a traveling exhibit, displayed on a bus provided by the Environmental Justice League of RI and stationed at locations around the city. In 2013, students produced Mashapaug’s Neighbors: Voices from Beyond the Pond, a cell phone audio tour that used stories, memories and commentaries from oral history interviews with people who care about the Pond.  An complementary website provided historical and educational materials for people who want to learn more about Mashapaug and related environmental concerns.

Project goals:

  • To build and sustain a multidisciplinary collaboration, merging community art, oral history, and environmental activism, that can generate new ways of understanding and visualizing the significance of natural places within urban environments
  • To use Mashapaug Pond and environs as a case study for public humanities students to learn oral history, public programming, exhibition, and other skills
  • To support the work of the Urban Pond Procession and other organizations dedicated to advancing remediation of, and public education about, the environmental conditions of Mashapaug Pond
  • To create a publicly-accessible archive of historical documents and creative projects available for future use.


 Reservoir of Memories: A Community Collection, December 2011, exhibit opening. This photo features Araceli Mendez, a student in AMST1903G, Oral History and Community Memory, with Bill Smith, whom she interviewed about his 25 years of employment at the Gorham Silver Manufacturing Company, located next to Mashapaug Pond.


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